DEC 16, 2015 04:51 AM PST

What? Can't Hear You, I'm Texting!

Anyone who has ever tried to speak to someone who is engrossed in a video game or a television program knows that the viewer might not even know they are there. We’ve all been that person, asking once, twice and even three times for a child to put down the Xbox controller or turn off the football game. According to recent research there might actually be some science behind why a person engaged visually cannot actually hear what’s going on near them.
Brain scans show inattentional deafness is real

A study conducted at the University College of London and published in the Journal of Neuroscience has looked at this phenomena and their results suggest that a person who is involved in a complex visual task is actually deaf to certain sounds around them.  It’s called “inattentional deafness” and it’s a real thing.

It's not the first time researchers have explored this disconnect. Research from 2011 done at Oxford had study participants listening to white noise through headphones while engaged in a complex visual task. Partway through the task an audible tone was played into the headphones, interrupting the white noise. In that study, 80% of participants said they never heard the tone.
 
The more recent research at UCL incorporated brain scans into the mix to see if they could discover why people concentrating visually on something seemed to go temporarily deaf.  In a press release from the university, co-author of the study, Dr. Maria Chait of the UCL Ear Institute said,  "This was an experimental lab study which is one of the ways that we can establish cause and effect. We found that when volunteers were performing the demanding visual task, they were unable to hear sounds that they would normally hear. The brain scans showed that people were not only ignoring or filtering out the sounds, they were not actually hearing them in the first place."
 
Professor Nilli Lavie from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (who was also involved in the 2011 research at Oxford)  told Time.com  "Inattentional deafness is a common experience in everyday life, and now we know why," says co-author "For example, if you try to talk to someone who is focusing on a book, game or television programme and don't receive a response, they aren't necessarily ignoring you, they might simply not hear you! This could also explain why you might not hear your train or bus stop being announced if you're concentrating on your phone, book or newspaper. This has more serious implications in situations such as the operating theatre, where a surgeon concentrating on their work might not hear the equipment beeping. It also applies to drivers concentrating on complex satnav directions as well as cyclists and motorists who are focusing intently on something such as an advert or even simply an interesting-looking passer-by. Pedestrians engaging with their phone, for example texting while walking, are also prone to inattentional deafness. Loud sounds such as sirens and horns will be loud enough to get through, but quieter sounds like bicycle bells or car engines are likely to go unheard." Check out the video below for more information on this study.
 
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 03, 2018
Technology
NOV 03, 2018
Neurotechnology Treats Paralysis
The latest study at the intersection of technology and neuroscience is the STIMO (STImulation Movement Overground) study, which has established the ne...
NOV 14, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 14, 2018
Understanding Left-Right Dominance in the Brain
There are many common misconceptions about science, one of which is the belief that someone can be called right- or left-brained....
DEC 10, 2018
Neuroscience
DEC 10, 2018
Vitamin D and Schizophrenia
with vitamin D deficiency had increased risk of being diagnosed with Schizophrenia in adult life. However, the exposure-risk relationship was non-linear...
DEC 15, 2018
Technology
DEC 15, 2018
Noninvasive Technology Detects Neural Activity
In as study published in Light: Science and Applications, noninvasive technology may now detect nerve cell firing based on shape changes. The method was de...
JAN 08, 2019
Health & Medicine
JAN 08, 2019
Wireless 128 channel closed loop brain stimulation device
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, developed a device named "WAND," that simultaneously monitors the local field potentials and delivers electrical pulses to brain...
JAN 07, 2019
Technology
JAN 07, 2019
Software Program Decodes Rodent Chatter
Scientists have long known that rats and mice are social animals, always chatting up something new. Curious about understanding what is communicated betwee...
Loading Comments...